Team director Joxean Fernández said there’s no limit to Gaviria’s potential and promises the Colombian will see a full sprint train built up around him going into 2019.
“I consider him the world’s best sprinter at the moment,” Fernández said during a telephone interview. “He’s at the peak of his powers, at 24, with a lot of ambition and confidence. We hope we can help him achieve his full potential.”
Gaviria came on the market following his breakout Tour de France, where he won two stages and wore the yellow jersey. The sponsorship situation at Quick-Step was looking uncertain. Although team boss Patrick Lefevere eventually brought on a new title sponsor with Deceuninck, Gaviria already had one foot out the door with tantalizing offers from several teams.
Fernández, who worked with Quick-Step as a talent scout before joining UAE Team Emirates in 2017, said he quietly worked out details with Lefevere before pursuing Gaviria.
“I was there at Quick-Step when we brought on Gaviria,” Fernández said. “That’s how cycling is; if you miss someone on the way out, you can get them on the way back.”
More importantly, Gaviria’s switch from Quick-Step to UAE means the Colombian will be his team’s top sprinter for 2019. At Quick-Step, Gaviria was forced to share the calendar with the emergence of Italian Elia Viviani.
Despite the presence of UAE’s veteran Alexander Kristoff, Fernández said Gaviria will be the team’s No. 1 sprinter in all the major races next season.
“We have complete respect for Alex [Kristoff] and what he’s done in his career. Few have palmares like him, and he will be one of our captains for the classics,” Fernández said. “With Gaviria, we will have the guarantee that we are sprinting for the win, not fourth or fifth, so it’s natural we will want to build a big train around him.”
Kristoff, 31, has expressed some hopes that he won’t be slotted into a new-look Gaviria train and will still have his own opportunities. Though he admits he’s not the fastest in the bunch, Kristoff can still post some big wins, including a victory on the Champs-Élysées last July in his first Tour stage win since 2014.
Fernández said it’s too early to talk about schedules — the team’s sport directors are meeting this week to begin to map out the 2019 racing calendar — but he said there’s plenty of space for everyone to have their chances.
Fernández left no doubt that the Gaviria will play a starring role for the team’s sprint finales.
“Gaviria is a bit of a ‘todo terreno,’ he can do it all, except climb the highest mountains,” Fernández said. “Everyone knows that when Fernando is there in the final, very few people can beat him.”
Gaviria, along with compatriot Sergio Henao, is the top name moving to UAE-Emirates for 2019. Following up on Fernández’s scouting reputation, the team also signed five young riders with top potential for the future.
The present will be firmly centered on Gaviria.
“There’s no limit of what he can do,” Fernández said. “Of course, he’s not a climber and he’s not experienced yet on the pavé, but even there he has great potential. We’ll have a great team around him. With his age and what’s he already accomplished, we want to help him achieve even more.”